Can We Find Joy In Vulnerable Times this Sukkot?

As Yom Kippur ended last Wednesday night, I quickly had a bite of a bagel and downed some orange juice. I soon checked in on social media after taking a nice break from it over the holiday. 

I was quickly horrified to see the news of the terrorist attack on a synagogue in Halle, Germany earlier that day and the tragic death of two innocent people, 40 year-old Jana Lange and 20 year-old Kevin S. This tragic shooting came about a year after another terrorist attack on a Jewish house of worship in Pittsburg. In between were too many acts of baseless hatred directed against minorities here and around the world. 

This time I knew some of the victims who were at the synagogue in Halle and thankfully, lived to tell of their experiences. As one can imagine, they recounted how terrifying the ordeal was and to have to wait inside (and even outside) the locked synagogue for help to arrive. They also shared deep gratitude that the terrorist was not able to infiltrate the building and kill even more people. The group of Jews who started the day in a synagogue on the holiest day of the year concluded their Yom Kippur service at a local hospital instead, where they were taken to be checked for signs of shock and trauma. 

One of the people I know later posted a video of several members of the group coming home from the hospital on a bus together. One person blew the shofar as many communities do to mark the end of Yom Kippur, and then the group erupted in joyous song and dance (which is another way communities conclude Yom Kippur, but this time the gratitude was obviously connected to surviving what had transpired earlier that day).

bus video

Members of the group singing together on a bus returning from the hospital after the Yom Kippur shooting in Halle, Germany

Although I understood the vast range of emotions the folks inside the synagogue must have felt throughout the day, instinctively I couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable watching this video. I had just learned about everything that happened and was in the throes of feeling the three A’s: anxious, angry, and afraid. I know I could only interpret this experience as an onlooker, but I just couldn’t imagine what it must have been like to muster up any kind of will to sing and dance after living through a nightmarish experience. I’m sure there were some who didn’t.  

Even if it didn’t feel natural to me as the one reading this news from afar, I recognize that mustering up song is a deep and important act of spiritual resilience in the midst of deep pain.

In no way will the Jews who were there in Halle forget this Yom Kippur – it will forever impact them as it will those who lost their loved ones that day. I pray that they soon find comfort in their grief. 

But I want to recognize that this attack, like many others, can and may have already seeped into our own minds every time we walk into a visible Jewish space or publically show up as a Jewish person. Truth be told, I find myself worrying more and more about physical violence in public places, Jewish and not, and I don’t know if not being afraid is an option anymore. Is it just a matter of when it happens as opposed to if it happens at this point? 

And yet, before I despair for too long, logic tells me that the world will continue to turn and we must go along with it. While we are alive and breathing, we always have the ability to shape our responses to people and events, and therefore, we can redefine these vulnerable times. 

One piece of Jewish wisdom I find myself going back to again and again when I’m disheartened comes from Pirkei Avot, Ethics of the Father. It says, 

“In a place where there are no people, strive to be a person” (Pirkei Avot 5:2).

What this means is that when our humanity is deeply challenged, we must show up as the full, beautiful, and loving humans that we are. And sometimes, that has to entail creating moments for joy regardless of what’s going on around us. 

I can’t think of a better time than this week of Sukkot to lean deeply into this message. On Sukkot, we are told to dwell (eat, hang out, and if possible, sleep) in sukkot, or huts which commemorate the temporary shelters the Israelites lived in as they wandered through the desert after leaving Egypt. But the Torah also says,

“You shall rejoice in your festival … and you shall have nothing but joy.“ (Deuteronomy  16:14-15).

Joy is such a central part to Sukkot that it even goes by another name, Z’man Simchateinu, “The Season of our Rejoicing.” So, unless one is really into glamping (which I am, actually…), how is this holiday supposed to help us feel joy? And what are we celebrating exactly?

Sukkot is a holiday of rejoicing, but many may not realize that it’s about rejoicing amidst our vulnerability. More than anything, Sukkot is a festival that commemorates a period of wandering. It asks us to reenact that in-between place of knowing where we came from (or fled from) and where we’d like to be (and may soon arrive at), but not sure how long the present moment of the unknown will last or what it will consist of. 

Sukkot (the huts) are made to help us embody this message by exposing us to the outside world (a “kosher” sukkah must allow us to see the stars in the sky at night, so the “roofing” which usually consists of scattered bamboo shoots, branches or corn stalks, can’t totally protect us from the rain, sun, or even bird poop). The sides are usually made with a tarp or strung pieces of cloth. They are not meant to be comfortable fortresses, let alone a real home.  

On Sukkot we literally embody the temporary nature of things and remember that we are often susceptible to the elements, which may not seem so fun when it rains or is windy. We also observe the holiday with joyful prayers (accompanied by shaking a sweet smelling plant/fruit combo called a lulav and etrog), songs, and festive meals. Additionally, it is a custom to invite guests to our sukkot each day. On Sukkot, we practice facing the world openly, but together.

Sukkot

If Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur ask us to move inward and examine our internal lives, Sukkot asks us to shift our gaze outward.

We may not always like what we see, and we may be forced to see difficult things anew each day, but we can resolve to do so with our own humanity intact by living out our values, being in community, deepening our relationships, and finding moments to celebrate what is good in our lives. And sometimes, the outside world is breathtakingly gorgeous and we should let Mother Earth do her own healing work on us, too. 

So, should we seek joy amidst our vulnerability? Absolutely. It’s our right. Can we? It’s hard, but it’s definitely possible. How should we try? By being realistic about the world we live in and still showing up as human beings, together. 

We don’t need to eat every meal in a sukkah to be able to do this, nor do we have to celebrate this week with Jews alone, but what if we tried to spend each day this week creating a moment for joy, relief or celebration for other people? 

  • Tell people in your life that you’re grateful for them,
  • Compliment others on something they do well,
  • Ask how an old friend is doing,  
  • Bake something delicious for your officemates, 
  • Cook a meal with good friends and invite a new one to join your group,
  • Give up your seat on the metro during rush hour, 
  • Happily give someone in need the money they ask for. 

That’s my plan this week and I hope you’ll join me and tell me all about it. 

Wishing you a chag sameach – a truly joyous holiday. 

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ilanaAbout the author: Rabbi Ilana Zietman is GatherDC’s Community Rabbi. She loves meeting new people and exploring Jewish ideas that are relevant and alive for people in their 20’s and 30’s. When Rabbi Ilana isn’t officially Gathering, she can be found cooking in her kitchen, practicing yoga, going on hikes, desperately searching for good pizza in DC (seriously, help her find some!) and watching a lot of tv.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Let’s Work Out! (…of a gym)

Last week, I took a field trip from the GatherDC offices to the MINT Health Club. Rather than going to enjoy a mid-day workout, I was going to meet up with Sarah Hostyk, founder of a new tech startup called WorkStrive and former Jewish Tech Startup Founder of the Week. I was curious to learn more about what her brand new company has to offer DC.

Sarah’s describes WorkStrive as a combination of AirBnB, WeWork, and ClassPass. It takes local gyms and fitness studios that are often empty during peak work times, and transforms them into a shared workspace for remote workers. Better yet, when Excel is driving you crazy or you’ve been staring at your inbox for one too many hours, you can spend an hour rejuvenating your mind – and body – with a fitness class or use of the gym facility that you’re in.

Rose: Tell me a little about yourself and how WorkStrive came to be.

Sarah: I’ve wanted to create a startup since I was a little kid, and even won a few elevator pitch competitions as a teenager and in college. My first job was working remotely for a startup near Tel Aviv working to launch their first mobile app in the US. I was living in a new city and all of my coworkers were in Israel.

When I moved to DC, I launched my first startup called PlaceTempo, which matches students and remote workers with the best places to study based on their needs.

While I was trying to launch PlaceTempo, I would go door-to-door trying to get businesses to offer deals for the app. Walking around DC, I’d pass by beautiful and empty gyms and had a lightbulb moment that led me to come up with WorkStrive.       

Rose: What’s your elevator pitch for WorkStrive?

Sarah: Its a network of gyms and yoga studios that have unutilized space during the work day and turns them into furnished co-working spaces. You get to work and workout without any extra cost or transportation. It costs $36 per day – about the price of a one-hour spin class. Eventually, I’m going to roll out a monthly membership. 

In addition to offering an affordable alternative for remote workers, WorkStrive helps business at smaller gyms and helps with the loneliness that many remote workers experience.      

Rose: When did you start this company? 

Sarah: I started working on it in January 2019 and I just launched it this month.

Rose: What is your favorite part of working in an environment like this?

Sarah: The space – its colorful, and the studio is calm and serene.

Rose: Where do you see this company going in the future?

Sarah: Right now we have four locations in DC, and I’ll be opening other locations around the DMV by early fall. We’ll be having monthly memberships and other workshops that incorporate both wellness and working. In the future, I’d like to expand all over the world. The sky’s the limit!  

workstrive

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Meet Jessica: Jewish Nurse of the Week!

When she’s not slaying it as a pediatric oncology research nurse, this outdoor lover might be found reading on a kayak, playing volleyball, or planning her dream trip to Iceland. Get to know Jessica Nooriel!

 

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Jessica: I’m pretty extroverted, so I wanted to live in a big city where there are lots of people and things happening. I’m also from Atlanta and am a southern girl at heart, so I didn’t want to go too far north. I decided to apply to jobs in DC, and got a great offer as a clinical, pediatric oncology research nurse at NIH. It worked out well! 

Allie: What are the biggest differences between DC and Atlanta? 

Jessica: Weather! It gets cold here (maybe not this week…). There is also a lot more going on in DC. In Atlanta, I lived in a nice, quiet, suburb which I loved. But here, it’s very happening, and political, and people all seem so smart and passionate.

Allie: What led you to a career in nursing?

Jessica: Science has always been a big topic of interest for me. I am fascinated by the science of healing, and love how nurses look at patients holistically. Seeing patients from a biological, sociological, and psychological perspective can give us a lot of insight. 

In the future, I’d like to go back to school to become a nurse practitioner so I can be involved in making the big decisions.

Allie: Describe your dream DC day.

Jessica: I’m an outdoorsy person, so my day would start with a morning hike. Then, I’d get lunch somewhere outside – maybe go to a brewery. After that, I would go kayaking or paddle-boarding. I’ve never lived near a body of water, so that is still new and exciting for me. I have a kayaking season pass for the summer at the Potomac. Then, I would go on a private tour of the White House and the monuments.

Allie: What is at the top of your bucket list? 

Jessica: Skydiving, but in a different country. I’d also love to go to Iceland, I’ve heard it’s the type of country you can just camp the entire time, and that the food and sights are amazing. 

Allie: What are your go-to ways to relax?

Jessica: Boating and reading. I read a lot. I’m about to finish Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. I’m also interested in Holocaust books. Two of my favorites are Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl and The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult.

Allie: What is your favorite Jewish holiday?

Jessica: Passover, because my family always gets together as a big group. I love long meals and being around people. And I also love matzah, especially matzah pizza! And I enjoy anticipating that the holiday is coming with all of the cleaning and the preparation. 

Allie: Is there something that people would be surprised to know about you?

Jessica: Yes! Even though I’m super short, I play volleyball. I played competitively in high school and intramural in college. My position is setter. I can’t join a DC league because of my schedule, but I would love to get a pick-up game started. 

Allie: Complete the sentence: when Jews of DC gather…

Jessica: …They have a good time.

jessica

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Mr. Nice Jewish Boy Pagaent 2019: Meet the Contestants!

Launched with brilliant, glittery fanfare in 2013 in the erstwhile Cobalt space, the 2019 Mr. Nice Jewish Boy Pageant is bigger, flashier, and with lots more shmear.

Set to take place on August 4th at U Street Music Hall, the Pageant features four contestants competing for the title and the tiara – and a grand prize from VIDA. Nice Jewish Boys DC, an LGBT Jewish social organization based in Washington DC, is organizing the event.

“Now in our fourth year, this amazing event just keeps getting bigger and better,” said Ben Rosenbaum, President of Nice Jewish Boys DC. “The Mr. NJB Pageant is a chance to showcase our community and the amazing individuals who make it so special. This is our largest event of the year and I can’t wait to share it with everyone.”

The DC community has welcomed the pageant as a smashing success. Proceeds from the event benefit Keshet, one of the largest nationwide LGBTQ Jewish organizations that provides support, education, and resources to LGBTQ Jews of all ages. The event raised more than $4,000 for the organization, said co-organizer and 2017 runner-up Jeremy Gilston, “and we’re hoping to top that this year!”

Mr. Nice Jewish Boy 2018 winner and 2019 co-organizer Jeremy Sherman said that there’s “no doubt that the Mr. NJB Pageant is a wildly entertaining event, but it’s so much more. Mr. NJB Pageant has become one of DC’s premier events for the Jewish LGBTQ+ community. It celebrates the community’s spirit, talents, and ability to come together for a greater cause.”

Contestants begin the show by seeking to wow the audience with a choreographed dance number. Following that, they undergo a rigorous interview from a panel of distinguished judges from the Jewish community, including at least one Jewish mother. Contestants finish with the talent portion. In the past, these have ranged from a rap about Bubbe to doling out homemade chicken soup.

Beyond bragging rights, this year, the contestants are competing for a VIDA Fitness full-year all-access gym membership with access to the pool and rooftop facilities, valued at about $2,000.

Also new this year: a performance by celebrated New York City-based Orthodox Jewish drag queen Lady SinAGaga.

“People in D.C. may not be familiar with Lady SinAGaga, but she is smart, funny, talented, and a Long Island-born former yeshivah boy turned drag queen! She is kind of New York City’s next Miz Cracker, who became a famous RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant,” said Gilston.

The event will also include a silent auction with donations from local businesses; all of these proceeds will also benefit Keshet.

Though they have big heels to fill, the four contestants participating in the pageant this year are promising to slay the stage themselves.

Now let’s meet the contestants!

Adam Gerstenfeld

First is Adam Gerstenfeld, a research analyst at an education nonprofit. He said that he should be the next Mr. Nice Jewish Boy “because I’m just a small town boy trying to make it in the big city.” Just as importantly, Adam says that he calls his mother every day. And “as Mr. Nice Jewish boy, I would offer to call Jewish mothers who don’t feel that their sons ring often enough.” To drive the point home, his special talent is a magical traditional Shabbat meal. He also claims that he can cure hiccups. Adam reports that as a summer theater camp kid, he once ripped his pants open in a competition attempting a split. There’s no word on whether there will be a repeat performance.

 

Ben Gersten

Next is Ben Gersten, a research scientist focusing on cancer drugs with a side hustle teaching Hebrew school. He claims that he should be crowned because of his backstory, having survived gay conversion therapy and then later getting a degree from Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS). He also claims to be great with Jewish moms. They can “count on me to chitchat about The New York Times over coffee, make sure their sons are eating, and to always bring a host gift.” Watch out when it comes to games, though, because “you can bet your tuches I’ll beat you in Jeopardy,” he says.

 

Jordan Aronowitz

The third contestant is Jordan Aronowitz, who is following his roots as an accountant. “But I’m a cool accountant,” he says. “I visit Navy bases to say hi to the boys in uniform.” He claims that he should win the crown because of his Jewish geography: he’s from Great Neck, New York, went to college in California, and is now an accountant in DC. He also notes that he’s a “buxom bombshell with a big personality and long eyelashes.” Since moving to Washington, DC, “the Jewish community has been my favorite part.” He also claims that he calls his mother on the daily.

Larry Komrower

Last but certainly not least is Larry Komrower, a coordinator of international education and study abroad programs. He, too, proclaims skill in the kitchen, but with a “killer” challah to match. Beyond being “nice, Jewish, and a boy,” Larry says that his deep involvement in the NJB community over the past several years proves that he should take the crown. Plus, he can “throw down a good showtune,” not to mention that he can do so in any of the four languages he speaks. “It has been refreshing to find a group in which I could make friends who are both gay and Jewish,” he says. His best friend and adorable pet Corgi agrees, “Larry has what it takes, WOOF!”

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Mr. Nice Jewish Boy 2018 Runner Up and 2019 co-organizer Zach Levine is excited for each of these contestants, concluding that they are all winners for getting this far: “Participating in the Mr. NJB Pageant was, by far, one of the best decisions I have made since moving to the District. It introduced me to a Queer and Jewish community in DC I never knew I needed.”  

General admission tickets are $25 and limited VIP tickets come with a meet-and-greet with Lady SinAGaga.


About the Author: Evan Caplan hails from the second Jewish homeland (New York). After serving in the Peace Corps, he’s a longtime DC resident and onetime Jewish Guy of the Week. Evan is the Washington Blade food columnist when not at his day gig. Evan was also the runner-up in 2013. He won points for telling the Jewish mother judge that he would provide all the kosher meat that her vegetarian son would ever need.


The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Meet Sarah: Jewish Singer of the Week!

Singer and songwriter in local band Secret Beach, Sarah Diamond is one of the coolest DC Jews we’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. Get to know her…

sarah

Allie: What brought you to DC?

Sarah: I’m originally from California, but I was born in India, and lived in Ghana in high school. When it came time to go to college, I wanted to live in an international city and study international relations. I went to American University and was planning to go back to California, but ended up getting an internship in DC at NPR and decided to stay here.

Allie: Describe your dream day in DC from start to finish (assuming money is no object).

Sarah: OH my goodness. Are we allowed outside the official DC borders? Hypotheticals are hard! I’d wake up, go for a bike ride to the Takoma Farmer’s Market, and get a bunch of fresh ingredients for brunch. Then, I’d hire a private chef at an outdoor kitchen to help my friends and me cook up a big brunch, and then we’d all eat together. After that, I’d sunbathe and read a good book.

In the evening, we’d put on an intimate, outdoor, backyard, concert with my favorite bands. My band would play as well, and it would be catered by Timber Pizza. We’d dance all night and stargaze through a telescope brought to the event by a member of the DC Astrological Society (not sure this exists) so they can explain all things celestial.  

Allie: I hear you perform with a local acapella group. Has music always been a big part of your life?

Sarah: I grew up playing music. My dad was my music and drama teacher in school, and I would play and listen to music with him a lot. That was our bonding thing. I was also the only Jewish kid in my choir growing up, so I had to sing the token Hanukkah songs by myself at holiday time. It was mortifying.

sarah

Allie: What is the acapella group that you’re part of in DC?

Sarah: It’s called Makela and is really fun! I also sing in a band and write music, so [acapella] really helps me improve my voice and think about cool and different arrangements for songs. [Editor’s note: Check out Makela on YouTube!]

Allie: Ohh…tell me about this band.

Sarah: We’re called Secret Beach. I’m the singer and guitarist, so acapella is really helpful for keeping my voice fit and ready to perform.

Allie: What kind of music do you play?

Sarah: We play 50% originals and 50% covers. Our repertoire includes everything from Joni Mitchell and Norah Jones, to Aerosmith, Billie Eilish, and Yebba. We like to genre-bend and put our own spin on covers. We’re playing June 2nd at Velvet Lounge, come dance with us!

Allie: Do you have a favorite type of music you like to sing?

Sarah: I like jazz and folk singing. I especially like jazz because it’s challenging and vocally, goes places you don’t expect. Female jazz singers are badass and my inspirations.

Allie: I heard that you recently went on GatherDC’s Beyond the Tent retreat. What was that like?

Sarah: Beyond the Tent was really eye-opening. It gives you a different way of thinking about Judaism. I still think about it and talk about it.

Allie: What was your favorite memory from Beyond the Tent?

Sarah: Playing music. A bunch of us just got together to play, and at the time I thought we sounded really good. We were very enthusiastic.

Allie: If you could invite three people to your Shabbat dinner, who would you invite and why?

Sarah: Dead or alive? Do they have to come if I invite them? Important stipulations. Regardless, I would invite my mom, dad, and sister because I really really like them.

Allie: Complete this sentence, when Jews of DC Gather…

Sarah: They play Jewish jeopardy and ultimately have at least one friend in common.

sarah


The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

 

Why I hate Jewish happy hours

I work for a Jewish nonprofit that is perhaps best known in some circles for our happy hours that “Gather the Jews” of DC together at trendy bars throughout the city every month.

These happy hours have been gracing our Jewish community since the good ole days of 2010. Over the past nine years, these monthly gatherings have helped thousands of young DC-area Jews with diverse interests, backgrounds, levels of religiosity, professions, and relationship statuses make their bubbies proud.

And yet, if I earned a shekel for every time someone in the community has said “I hate those Jewish happy hours”, I’d be floating on a blow-up unicorn in my private infinity pool full of hummus right about now. #lifegoals

But, I digress.

The fact of the matter is that there seems to be a large percentage of the young Jewish DC community that feels happy hours, well, kind of suck. As the person who does the marketing for these happy hours, and as a regular attendee myself, I decided it might be a really good idea to compile a list of reasons why.

1. You have to make painfully awkward small talk with strangers.

Yes. I feel this one. I mean, how many times are people going to ask “What do you do?” Seriously? Even though I spend 60% of my waking hours at my job, it’s such a random question! Plus, small talk is boring and leads to nowhere.

And yes, maybe it was small talk at GatherDC happy hours that led me to meet the woman who became my boss, the people who became some of my closest friends in DC, and the man who became my husband. But really – enough with the small talk.

via GIPHY

2. You have to pay $5 to get into the happy hour and don’t even get a free drink!

Look, it’s not like I can’t afford the $5, it’s the principle of it! Why should I have to put $5 of my hard-earned money toward an entry fee to these happy hours? It would be one thing if that money was supporting something important, like a local Jewish nonprofit organization that is a pretty big part of my life in DC. But I have no idea where that money is going.

Ugh, I’ll just head home. Hold on though, let me stop by Sweetgreen to get a $14 salad.

via GIPHY

3. You’re peer-pressured into wearing a name-tag.

It’s awful. I hate having to go through the effort of taking 12 seconds to write my name on a sticker. Also, sticking the sticker to my beautiful outfit totally ruins the look I was going for. Everyone at these fashion-forward happy hours really cares what I’m wearing.

I would much rather have people ask me 17 times to repeat my name because they have trouble remembering.

via GIPHY

4. You have to be happy for a full hour – or more!

What if I had a bad day at work and am feeling stressed out? What if my mom just called nagging me and I’m super annoyed? What if I just ate three slices of cheese pizza but I’m lactose intolerant so I’m feeling extremely bloated? The pressure to be forced into happiness for an extended period of time is almost too much for me to handle.

What’s that you say? GatherDC’s Rabbi Aaron Potek already made it clear that all emotions are welcome at Jewish happy hours? So, I can come as my real, authentic self even if that means I’m full of annoyance or exhaustion or sadness? Alright then, I’m going to show up to the next happy hour with a big pouty face on. Just you wait.

via GIPHY

5. There’s way better things I could be doing with my night.

I work hard during the day and when the clock strikes 6pm, the night is my oyster (#notkosher). Why spend it in a bar full of potential new friends? My Netflix app gets mad at me when I don’t binge watch “The Office” for the eighth time.

Yeah, meeting awesome young adults and finding connection to Jewish DC life is definitely not how I want to spend an hour of my night.

 

via GIPHY

 

In sum, it seems that these Jewish happy hours we love to hate are the same places that we can find our future community, roommates, soulmates, friends, and colleagues. They have the potential to connect us to one another, and help us find one of our places in the Jewish community. It’s these very happy hours that, while at times awkward, might just be the starting point to living your very best Jewish life. And hey, if they suck – you can always go home to spend the rest of the night with Dwight Schrute and your Sweetgreen salad.

P.S. Our next happy hour is May 22nd at Takoda. See you there?


P.P.S. We fully understand that happy hours just might not be your scene. Some people don’t like spending time in bars or feel uncomfortable in large groups of people. Our only goal at GatherDC is to help you find your fit in Jewish DC life – however that works best for you. If happy hours aren’t for you, there is zero pressure to attend. We have tons of other ways for you to connect to Jewish life! We can connect you to intimate cohort experiences, Jewish learning, volunteer opportunities, and a huge calendar with amazing events around the city. If you’re not sure where to begin, let’s grab coffee (our treat!) so we can help you find your people and place in this community. No happy hour attendance required. 

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The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Haman: A True Crime Story

Haman: A True Crime Story is a brand new podcast created by GatherDC, and hosted by investigative journalists Allison Friedman and Rachel Nieves.

It tells the story — a true story — about the evil Haman of Shushan who was murdered more than 2,000 years ago.

*Exclusive interviews with stars of the #Purim story: Esther, Vashti, and Mordechai!

Haman: A True Crime Story will make you ask the question: Should I be eating hamantaschen with poppy seeds?

 

For more inside scoop, click here.

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First, this video is a joke. Shocking as it may be, those interviewed were actually our staff members and not the protagonists in the Purim story. Second, the views and opinions are solely those of the original authors and do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Mini Gatherings: New to DC/Early 20s


Want to meet other interesting Jews in a smaller, more personal setting? Looking to explore questions that matter to Jewish 20s and 30s? Afraid of commitment?

GatherDC is excited to open applications for the 17th round of Mini Gatherings. We are looking for Jews in their early 20s who are looking to connect with others over meaningful discussions!

apply now

WHAT IS MINI GATHERINGS?

Mini Gatherings is a 3-week-long mini-fellowship that brings together ~15 diverse Jews to meet one another and have some DMCs (deep meaningful conversations) over beers. By the end, you’ll have made new friends, had some great discussions, and laughed at least twice.

WHO IS IT FOR?

This Mini Gatherings cohort is for Jewish adults who are in their early 20s and new to DC, looking to explore Judaism and meet new friends in a small, personal setting.

WHEN IS IT? 

6:30 – 8 pm on Wednesday, January 23rd, January 30th, and February 6th and Shabbat dinner on Friday night, February 1st.

WHERE IS IT? 

Somewhere in Dupont Circle. TBD.

ANY QUESTIONS? 

Email Rachel Nieves at racheln@gatherdc.org

DEADLINE TO APPLY? 

Apply below by Wednesday, January 16th at midnight.

    

mm/yy

Jewish DC Year in Review: 2018

year in review

 

Ah, 2018. Was it all that bad?

Okay yes, Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson broke our hearts. We had some awkward political tension.  We could go through the list of awful things, because – safe to say – they were plentiful. Instead, let’s recap 2018 on a high note.

After all, 2018 had some pretty beautiful moments.

Queer Eye’s fab five travelled around the U.S. changing lives – one fabulous makeover at a time. “Crazy Rich Asians” made us smile uncontrollably for days. The Caps won the Stanley Cup. Also, Ariana Grande came out with the best music video, possibly ever.

Locally, Jewish DC hosted over 1,000+ community events for 20s/30s, ushered in more than 9 new rabbis to the area, hosted Yom Kippur in a bar, welcomed a new Jewish deli to the scene, and so much more!

Here’s a recap of some of our very favorite moments across Jewish DC in 2018.

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JEWISH PEOPLE OF THE WEEK!

This year, we interviewed 50 of the most phenomenal Jewish people across the District. From a professional pastry chef to politicians to renowned restauranteurs, we were stoked to introduce you to some of DC’s most dope Jews.

In case you missed one, here’s a recap.

Carly was named Most Dope Jew of the Week. She, along with 50 others, were featured as Gather’s Jewish Person of the Week this year!

 

JANUARY

MLK Shabbat at Sixth & I: January 12

mlk shabbat

A favorite Sixth & I annual tradition, this moving service with Turner Memorial AME Church—which worshiped in Sixth & I’s building for five decades—commemorates the spirit and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel.

 

Metro Minyan Shabbat: January 26

metro minyan

Every month, Washington Hebrew Congregation’s 2239 hosts a casual, musical, come-as-you-are Shabbat service followed by dinner with other 20s and 30s from across the city.

 

FEBRUARY

Beyond the Tent: February 9-11

btt

This February, GatherDC took a group of 30+ young adults out of DC to start exploring their Jewish identities from a fresh perspective.

 

MARCH

Moishe House DMV Purim Party: March 3

Purim

All four DMV Moishe Houses (Bethesda, Capitol Hill, Columbia Heights, and Northern Virginia) gathered to celebrate Purim in spring 2018, welcoming over 200 community members with one giant bash!

 

Honeymoon Israel

hmi

HoneymoonIsrael DC celebrated 2018 with three trips to Israel, bringing diverse couples with at least one Jewish participant to experience Israel and build community back home in DC. We floated in the dead sea, partied in the Golan, and had hard conversations on the beach- welcome home to our 60 new HMI alumni couples!

 

APRIL

Moishe House Columbia Heights “Friends-Over” Thanksgiving: April 6

moishe house

Noah Brown led his first Moishe House Columbia Heights event, called “Friends-Over” (think Friendsgiving), which was a wonderful housewarming/potluck during the best Jewish holiday…Passover! 🙂

 

Pet Projects with Moishe House Northern Virginia: April 19

gdd moho

Moishe House Northern Virginia took part in Federation’s Sara & Samuel J. Lessans Good Deeds Day to make dog toys for cute canines from a local animal shelter.

 

MAY

Jewish People of the Year Party: May 10

jpoy

GatherDC celebrated the extraordinary people who had been featured as a Jewish Person of the Week from 2017-2018, and everyone who makes our Jewish community so friggin’ awesome at its Jewish People of the Year Party with games, photo-booth, a raffle, dancing, and more!

 

JUNE

March with GLOE at Capital Pride: June 9

gloe

The EDCJCC’s GLOE brought together individuals and Jewish groups to join their contingent of DC’s LGBTQ Jews and allies for this fun event!

 

JULY

Mr. NJB Pageant: July 15

nice jewish boys

On July 15, Jeremy Sherman took home the crown at the Nice Jewish Boys DC’s annual Mr. NJB Pageant. Jeremy danced, talked, and sashayed his way to the top, raising money along the way for Keshet’s LGBTQ Teen Shabbaton Program. Read more about Jeremy’s big win here.

 

AUGUST

Jewish Run Club: August 8

run club

This year, a group of Jewish exercise enthusiasts got together and started a running club! Once a month, they “gather” at GatherDC’s townhouse and go for a run around the city, followed by drinks.

 

SEPTEMBER

GatherDC’s Alternative Yom Kippur Experience: September 19

alt yk

For the 2nd year in a row, GatherDC hosted hundreds of young adults for an alternative Yom Kippur experience where we connected to themes of the day through small-group discussions, personal reflection, story-telling, journaling, and more.

 

OCTOBER

Wisdom & Wellness: Jewish Spiritual Tools for Mental Health: October 10

adas at the well

The Jewish Mindfulness Center of Washington, Adas Israel Community Mikvah, and At The Well brought women of all ages together for an evening of learning and conversation with rabbi’s, mikvah attendants, wellness coaches, and therapists to explore using Jewish spiritual practices to live whole lives.

 

Federation’s Impact DC: October 18

impact

On October 18, 2018, more than 200 young leaders joined The Jewish Federation’s Young Leadership to party with a purpose and celebrate the impact of their philanthropy at home and around the globe.

 

Washington Hebrew Congregation District Shabbat: October 19

district shabbat

On Friday, October 19th, Washington Hebrew Congregation (WHC) debuted District Shabbat, a soulful, joyful, and musical Shabbat for all ages at the Southwest Waterfront.

 

NOVEMBER

ACCESS D.C. Policy & Brew Roundtable, November 8

access dc

Attendees at the event learned about AJC’s work on important global and domestic issues, sampled delicious beer, and networked with their fellow global Jewish advocates.

 

YP@AI Brunch and Learn with Rabbi Sarah Krinsky: November 11

brunch and learn

Bagels, mimosas, and Jewish learning? What could be better on a Sunday morning?!

 

DECEMBER

JWI’s Young Women’s Leadership Network Conference: December 2

jwi

JWI’s Young Women’s Leadership Conference brought together 250 women from across the country for a day of learning from each other, networking, and inspiring women’s leadership.

 

Hanukkah Happy Hour on the Hill with EntryPoint: December 5

dcjcc hanukkah

Over 300 young adults joined EDCJCC’s EntryPoint for their annual Hanukkah Happy Hour where we lit the candles, enjoyed gelt, 90s music, doughnuts, and more!

 

Tikkun Leil Shabbat: December 10

tls

Tikkun Leil Shabbat celebrated the final night of Chanukah. On all eight nights, we gathered in community members’ homes across the District to light candles and eat latkes together.

Happy Hanukkah DC: From Our Stomachs To Yours

The Festival of Lights has finally arrived! What better way to celebrate this holiday than inhaling as many latkes, donuts, and gelt as possible? If you have yet to indulge in your share of these delightful treats, not to worry. We’re here to help. Look no further for the best Hanukkah deals in DC. And no, it’s definitely not too late to dig into some sufganiyot!

donuts

Sufganiyot from Sugar Shack

Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken

Astro Doughnuts is one of our FAVORITE places for delightful sugary treats, and this year they did not disappoint. They’re offering a special “Hanukkah Mini Box” featuring a dozen doughnuts inspired by the holiday, including Sufganiyot, creme brulee mini doughnuts topped with gelt, and Hanukkah cookie mini doughnuts. These delicious little rings of joy are available at all locations throughout Hanukkah (December 2-10).

B. Doughnut

Berry jam, cinnamon sugar, and a seasonal gingerbread flavor! They also have vegan berry glazed donut holes with granola. So yeah, there’s that.

Dino’s Grotto

Dino’s Grotto (similar but different to The Little Mermaid’s grotto) has an entire Hanukkah 2018 menu available a la carte or as a family style FEAST. Take your pick from latkes, specialty pasta, a choice of chicken or fish, and an olive oil citrus cake. Ooookay!

Chai-vy & Coheney

This is perhaps the most popular pop-up bar in Washington DC. Stop by this famous Shaw watering hole for shots out of a menorah, red and green dreidels, and lots and lots of Manischewitz. Not only is this pop-up bar super fun and innovative, but all proceeds from the ShotNorah (eight guests take shots in unison) are being donated to HIAS. How’s that for some warm and fuzzy holiday feels?

Commissary DC

Commissary’s menu is currently featuring vegetarian potato pancakes with sour cream and apple sauce! They also serve potato pancakes with eggs, smoked salmon, sour cream, and toast which sounds absolutely incredible. We have not tried this, but if anyone wants to go to brunch here with us this weekend, please comment below. 🙂

District Doughnut

They carry a special sufganiyot flavor (vanilla bean, sugar, and strawberry jam) for the season, along with a year-round Bailey’s & Coffee, Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee, and definitely not kosher Maple Bacon.

Fare Well

In addition to hosting celebs like Miley Cyrus, this vegan staple on H Street boasts egg-free potato latkes with homemade sour creme and apple sauce for the season.

Miracle on 7th St

This isn’t a traditional “restaurant,” we know, but obviously we had to include this yearly staple in our roundup of Hanukkah deals across DC. While the majority of this bar centers around Christmas, there is an amazing Hanukkah section filled with menorahs, a specialty drink called The Hebrew Hammer, and Chinese food boxes. Because a lot of Jews eat Chinese food on Christmas. Get it?

Sugar Shack Donuts

Voted one of the Top 10 Tastiest Donuts in America, Sugar Shack carries flavors like Candy Cane and carries a raspberry jam filled Sufganiyot flavor that I can tell you from personal experience is fully, moist, and finger-licking good.

Other places to indulge in your favorite festive delicacies:

Know of other places to try delicious latkes or donuts before Hanukkah comes to a close? Please comment below!

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site